Late Vedas - Economics, Politics, Varna System, Gender, Household, Upanishads, Iron and Megaliths

February 20, 2018

Late Vedas:


    1. Agriculture:

      1. Barley, Wheat and Rice have various references.

      2. Sowing, Ploughing, Reaping and Threshing finds mention.

      3. Atharva Veda mentions Charms to ward off pests and to avert droughts, reflecting the anxieties that farmers must have had.

    2. Institution of Private Property had not yet emerged.

    3. Household was the basic unit of labour.

    4. Gift of land occur in later Vedic text.

    5. Literary references to Iron.

  2. Politics:


    1. There is emergence of Monarchy.

    2. Aitareya Brahmanas refer to a kingdom of 10 generations.

    3. Atharva Veda tells about election of King.

    4. Words such as Samrajya and Samrat reflect the imperial aspirations and ambitions of certain kings.

    5. Shatapatha Brahmana assert that the king gains identity with Prajapati through his performance of the Vajapeya and Rajasuya sacrifices.


    1. Varna system defined Social boundaries, roles, status and ritual purity. Members of the four varnas were supposed to have different innate characteristics, which made them naturally suited to certain occupations and social ranks. Varna scheme was extended beyond society to the classification of other aspects of the world, gods and nature.

    2. Duties and Functions of the four Varnas are elaborated on in the Dharmashastra Literature of later times.



      Purushasukta in Book 10 of the Rig Veda refers to four social groups - Brahmana, Rajanya (instead of Kshatriya), Vaishya and Shudras.

    4. Word Varna is not mentioned.

    5. All Varnas originated from different parts of the body of a primeval giant named Purusha.

    6. Hierarchy of Varnas:

      1. Dharmashastras established that Brahmanas at the top, followed by Kshatriya, then Vaishya and lastly Shudras.

      2. While Panchavimsha Brahmana says that Indra is associated with the creation of the varnas, Rajanya are placed first, followed by the Brahmana and Vaishya.

      3. Shatapatha Brahmana also places the Kshatriya first in the list.

      4. Upanishad philosophy has also been viewed at least in part, as a reflection of the Kshatriya challenge to Brahmanical supremacy in the field of ultimate knowledge.

    7. First three Varnas are called Dvija as they are entitled to the performance of the Upanayana ceremony.

    8. Rajasuya sacrifice endowed each of the 4 Varnas with certain qualities:

      1. Brahmana - Tejas or Lustre.

      2. Kshatriya - Virya or valour.

      3. Vaishya - Prajati or Procreative power.

      4. Shudras - Pratishtha or stability.

    9.  As per Shatapatha Brahmana,

      1. Brahmana is associated with

        1. 4 special attributes:

          • Purity of Parentage.

          • Good Conduct

          • Glory

          • Teaching or Protecting People.

        2. 4 privileges:

          1. Honour

          2. Gift

          3. Freedom from being harassed

          4. Freedom from being beaten

        3. Goal: Lustre (Brahma-varcha)

      2. Kshatriya are connected with

        1. Strength

        2. Fame

        3. Ruling

        4. Warfare

        5. Goal of Kshatriya is Prowess (Indriya)

      3. Vaishya are connected with

        1. Material prosperity

        2. Animals

        3. Food

        4. Production related activities such as cattle rearing and agriculture.

        5. Goal of Vaishya is Animals and Food.

      4. Shudras were associated with serving the higher varnas and performing menial tasks.

      5. There were groups in society who were considered even lower than the Shudras like Slaves.

  4. Gender and the Household:

    1. Grihyasutra mentioned six or eight types of marriage including Marriage by capture, Polyandry, Polygyny, Monogamy etc.

    2. Atharva veda talks about the practice of a widow marrying her younger brother in law.

    3. Status of women were similar to that of Shudras.


  1. Upanishad mean " to sit near someone" . It could also mean connection or equivalence.

  2. They hold the key to liberation from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

  3. The main theme is Atman and Bhraman.

  4. There is no mention of Atman in Rig Veda.

  5. Brahman comes from the root word Brih which means Strong or firm.

  6. They talk about Karma.



  1. Evidence of Iron lumps, pieces, or artefacts from chalcolothic levels at sites such as Lothal, Mohenjodaro, Pirak, Allahdino, Ahar and Gufkral.

  2. Finding of Iron should not be confused with Iron Age. Iron age is significant use of Iron.


  1. Megalith comes from two Greek words, megas meaning great or big and lithos meaning stone.

  2. Megalith means monuments that have one thing in common- they are made of large, roughly dressed slabs of stone.

  3. Megalith reflect certain burial styles that emerged at different times in different places and continued for quite some time.

  4. Megaliths burial unlike neolithic and chalcolithic burials which were within the habitations, are located in a separate area.

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